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Acid Rain

Volume 301: debated on Wednesday 24 September 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the effect of acid rain on Britain's trees. [17170]

Maps of acid deposition in the UK based on work carried out for my Department have recently been published in reports by the Review Group on Acid Rain and the Critical Loads Advisory Group. Copies have been deposited in the House of Commons Library.Research into the sensitivity of trees to acid deposition is being carried out both in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. From the research, maps of the sensitivity of forest ecosystems to acid deposition have been developed on a UK and European scale. The areas of the UK forest at risk of damage can be identified by combining the maps of sensitivity and acid deposition.In addition, surveys of woodland tree condition in the UK are carried out annually. While these do not assess directly the impact of acid rain, the have provided evidence that, during the past few years, the previous decline in tree health has been reversed.Acid rain and damage to sensitive ecosystems including trees is an on-going transboundary problem. The UK was one of the first countries to ratify the Second Sulphur Protocol under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution. This commits the UK to an 80 per cent. reduction in its 1980 sulphur emissions by 2010. My Department is currently taking an active part in negotiations in the EU and UNECE aiming to provide further protection to the environment from acid deposition.